DEPRESSIVE REALISM VS DELUSIONAL OPTIMISM by A.C.Ping
A FEW POINTS courtesy of ‘The Optimistic Child’ by Martin Seligman PhD
“– Depressed people are accurate judges of how much skill they have, whereas non-depressed people think they are more skilful than others think them to be (80% of American men think they are in the top half of social skills)
– Non-depressed people remember more good events than actually happened and forget more of the bad events.
– Depressed people are accurate about both.
– Non-depressed people are lopsided about their beliefs about success and failure: if rewards occur – they claim the credit, the rewards will last and they’re good at everything; but if it was a failure, you did it to them, it’s going away quickly, and it was just this one little thing.
– Depressed people are even handed about success and failure.”
This brings me to my point – would you rather be a depressed realist or a delusional optimist? And if so, I bet you want to know how to do it? Be delusional that is?
We are creating our reality through the stories that we tell ourselves about how the world works and our place in it. If you base your story on the past and
all the evidence you’ve accumulated, then you are effectively closed to true possibility. “But that’s reality!”, I hear you cry
and yes, maybe... “Reality never lies but it only tells the
truth about the past not the future”. Living in the past/present loop traps
you into being who you always have been, locks you into a limited view of reality, and blocks true possibility, but it is safe because it is based on evidence. Oh but wait, isn’t that incredibly real?
Aren’t we trying to be gloriously and freely delusional? Yes please... Delusional means believing in
something where there is no evidence – in other words living in the future/present loop and allowing yourself to dream! “I couldn’t have imagined everything that has happened. But dreams are like
Consider it from a ‘being’ perspective:
that. That’s what makes the journey so interesting.” (Michael Jordan) “‘One can’t believe in impossible things.’ “‘I daresay you haven’t had much
practice’, said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’“ (Lewis Carroll, ‘Through the Looking Glass’) Exercise your imagination! Ask –
What do I really want? How would it feel? Practise holding your mind in the realm of future possibility – treat it as a game – play! If s#¡t happens – as it does in life – then
consider the positive psychology approach advocated by Martin Seligman – and take a look at how you are describing events to yourself. In other words – take a good look at what story you are telling yourself about life and hence what you are creating. The three descriptors are – • personal vs impersonal • temporary vs permanent • specific vs pervasive.
So, something bad happens and the pessimist says to him/herself, “I got made redundant; obviously it was my fault; things are never going to get better; why is this sort of thing always happening to me?” The optimist says, “I got made
redundant because those idiots at the top are cutting staff; it’s a temporary setback and it’s just this one little thing.” Something good happens and the pessimist says, “I got a pay rise. I guess
the unions have negotiated and everyone’s getting one; bet it won’t last; wish the rest of my life would improve.” The optimist says, “I got a pay rise.
Finally, they’ve recognised my talent; things like this are always happening to me and I’m on the way to the top.” Note the personal versus impersonal
distinction? If you face a setback and hear
yourself saying to someone, “Why is this happening to me?”, you should hear alarm bells ringing and know you are on the wrong track. Be delusional remember! “If you don’t ever plan to come back
then wherever you are is reality.” (Daniel Johns – Silverchair) Note also that the pessimist is an
accurate judge of reality – so you’d better skew the evidence to make sure you’re being as wickedly delusional as possible! Before going to sleep at night ask –
“What did I do right today?” or “What was good about today?” The aim here is to compile as much
evidence as possible to support the story that you are having an amazingly blessed and happy life. You see there’s a distinction between
our ‘experiencing selves’ and our ‘remembering selves’ – check out the research of Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning psychologist, and specifically his great TED talk, ‘The riddle of experience versus memory’.
april 2012 09
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